10 Players Whose Fantasy Football Stock Depends on Preseason Action

Daniel Stack@@stacdemonContributor IIAugust 7, 2014

10 Players Whose Fantasy Football Stock Depends on Preseason Action

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    Jeff Lewis/Associated Press

    With the preseason schedule going into full effect this weekend, we'll get our first thorough look at players whose fantasy stock may hinge on good performances this week and the weeks ahead leading up the fantasy football drafts.

    Obviously, you don't have to worry about early-round studs in the preseason. We already know what guys like Jamaal Charles and Calvin Johnson can do. Nothing in an exhibition game should sway our already high opinion of players of that ilk.

    However, some rookies and young players who may be afforded a chance to move up the depth chart bear close monitoring this preseason. Here then, are 10 players (ranked in order of fantasy value) to keep an eye on, as how they perform in the preseason can determine their fantasy value heading into the 2014 season.

Honorable Mentions

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    Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
    Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati BengalsUSA TODAY Sports

    Here are some other highly regarded sleepers and rookies to keep an eye on this preseason.

    Note, some of the guys mentioned here have higher value than the players listed in the slideshow. However, these 10 specific players have value that could fluctuate more on how they do in the preseason, which is the basis for the list.

    • Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills
    • Rueben Randle, WR, New York Giants
    • Khiry Robinson, RB, New Orleans Saints
    • Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
    • Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    • Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina Panthers
    • Andre Williams, RB, New York Giants
    • Christine Michael, RB, Seattle Seahawks
    • Jordan Matthews, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
    • Ladarius Green, TE, San Diego Chargers

10. Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis Rams

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    USA TODAY Sports

    There was a lot of hype attached to Tavon Austin's name last year, considering he was the No. 8 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, but things never materialized for him as he battled injuries as well as losing his quarterback, Sam Bradford, halfway through the season.

    Now that he has a healthy Bradford (although he's likely to sit Friday as merely a precaution) throwing him the ball and with a full grasp of the playbook, expect Austin to step forward this year and be a reliable fantasy asset. While you shouldn't expect a ton of touchdowns from Austin, it should be fun to see him rack up the receptions and the yards.

    Let's see if Austin can use the preseason to boost his stock, and his first chance will come Friday against the Saints, albeit with Shaun Hill likely throwing him passes.

9. Eric Ebron, TE, Detroit Lions

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    As the premier tight end of the 2014 NFL draft, Eric Ebron is certainly tickling the fancy of many fantasy players.

    Ebron has the complete package, as he is fast, strong and is a polished route-runner. When you combine all his attributes with the fact that he'll be part of an explosive Lions offense, you have yourself the perfect storm when it comes to drafting a sleeper tight end.

    His skills should be a full display this preseason. However he might not play when the Lions take on the Browns this Saturday, as he has a undisclosed minor injury, via Kyle Meinke of Mlive.com.

8. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans

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    Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

    There is a lot to like about DeAndre Hopkins.

    He is speedy, skilled and plays opposite Andre Johnson.

    However, he still has mediocre quarterbacks to work with, as he'll have either Ryan Fitzpatrick or rookie Tom Savage getting him the ball. It's unknown if he can produce without the services of a reliable quarterback.

    We'll get our first good look at him and the new-look Texans when they take on the Cardinals this Saturday.

7. Marvin Jones, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Al Behrman/Associated Press

    While A.J. Green gets all the publicity—and rightfully so—in Cincinnati as one of the preeminent receivers in the league, Marvin Jones is a receiver worth keeping an eye on this preseason.

    Jones had a fine sophomore campaign, reeling in 51 catches for 712 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. The thing is, though,  Jones was streaky, getting a lot of his touchdowns in bunches (including four of them in Week 8 against the Jets last year). For Jones to get to the next level in fantasy, we'll need to see more consistency on a week-to-week basis.

    Hopefully Jones taps his limitless potential and fully breaks out in 2014. Our first look this year will come Thursday against the Chiefs.

6. Kenny Stills/Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints

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    Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints
    Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans SaintsChris Tilley/Associated Press

    Kenny Still and Brandin Cooks are two exciting, young receivers that will be given every opportunity to show us what they got this preseason. Both are trendy sleepers this year—and for good reason.

    With the Saints losing playmakers Lance Moore and Darren Sproles in the offseason, there will be more passes for Drew Brees to spread around this year. Both Stills and Cooks have speed to burn, and in this Saints offense, that can make for fantasy gold.

    We'll get a good look at how these two receivers compliment Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston in the Saints offense on Friday night when they take on the Rams.


5. Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons

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    USA TODAY Sports

    With Steven Jackson getting up there in age (31) and with wear on his tires, the Falcons spent a fourth-round pick on Florida State's Devonta Freeman as insurance in case Jackson breaks down.

    That may eventually happen, but even if it doesn't, Freeman should get his carries nonetheless. Freeman is a solidly built back with explosiveness out of the backfield. He'll offer a set of skills Jackson is incapable of providing at this time.

    We'll see how Freeman is used this preseason, and our first look will come Friday against the Miami Dolphins.


4. Terrance Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    With Miles Austin gone, the job as secondary receiver to Dez Bryant in Dallas belongs to Terrance Williams now.

    Many, including yours truly, are predicting a breakout year for Williams, and he certainly has the talent to do so. His quarterback, Tony Romo, is hurt at the moment, but that should not deter you from making Williams a high priority this draft season.

    We'll see what Williams can do with Brandon Weeden likely throwing him the ball Thursday against the Chargers. Williams is a great No. 3 wide receiver to target in the middle-to-late rounds.

3. Terrance West/Ben Tate, RB, Cleveland Browns

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    Terrance West, RB, Cleveland Browns
    Terrance West, RB, Cleveland BrownsTony Dejak/Associated Press

    This running back competition should be hot and heated, and there is no telling at the moment how this will shake out leading up to Week 1.

    Ben Tate has the more experience, while Terrance West probably has the more upside of the two. If Tate can stay healthy, he'll certainly be in the mix for a good dose of carries, but West is the key player here. His build, athleticism and potential should win out in the end.

    We'll see the carry breakdown soon enough when the Browns play the Lions this Saturday.


2. Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers

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    USA TODAY Sports

    While Frank Gore is likely going to be the starter in San Francisco, most fantasy players are more excited to see what Carlos Hyde, the 49ers' second-round draft pick, can do.

    Blessed with great strength and a high motor, Hyde is likely the back of the future in San Francisco. Just how long will they allow Gore to receive the bulk of the carries? Well, with Gore being 31 years old and having totaled 2,187 carries in nine years, the 49ers will want to keep him fresh. Hyde will certainly be given an extended look as a result.

    It should be interesting to see how Hyde is used this summer. How he plays in the exhibition portion of the schedule could be a foreshadowing of things to come. Our first look will be on Thursday, when the 49ers play the Baltimore Ravens.

1. Bishop Sankey, RB, Tennessee Titans

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Word has recently come out, via John Glennon of The Tennessean, that the Titans' incumbent running back Shonn Greene sits atop the depth chart over Dexter McCluster and Bishop Sankey, who Tennessee just drafted in the second round (and the first running back taken) of the NFL draft.

    However, that's not an official declaration, and it is believed Sankey will eventually leapfrog Greene on the depth chart given the investment the Titans have in Sankey. Sankey has explosive playmaking abilities, and it should be interesting to see how the Titans use him this week in their game against the Green Bay Packers on Saturday and the weeks ahead as well.

    With Greene being nothing special, Sankey should be able to prove he is the best back and the future in Tennessee. He should start to enter people's minds in the third round in most 10-12 team leagues.

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